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Pork Belly Vs Bacon: The 7 Differences You Need To Know

There are lots of different cuts of pork meat that are ideal for various recipes and types of cooking.

Two cuts of pork that people often get confused between are belly pork and bacon.

Bacon is taken from the belly of the pig, so it is very similar to belly pork.

In many recipes they are interchangeable, but there are some important differences between them. Keep reading to find out more.

Pork Belly Vs Bacon The 7 Differences You Need To Know

What Are They?

Let’s start off by looking at what each cut of meat actually is.

What Is Belly Pork?

Belly pork comes from the belly of the pig. It is unsalted and uncured, and is usually in quite a large slab or cut up into strips. It is quite fatty with a rich flavor.

Belly pork is versatile and can be used in various different cuisines.

It is very popular In Southern Asian and Eastern Asian cuisine.

The high fat content gives belly pork a lot of flavor, which means it can hold its own in a dish with powerful seasonings and spices.

When cooked well, pork belly is very tender and melts in your mouth. The fat turns crispy and golden brown, contrasting with the soft meat.

You can cook slices of pork belly, cut it up into cubes, or roast it in a big slab and serve it with potatoes and vegetables. There are lots of different options.

If you overcook pork belly it can become tough and chewy. The fat can harden and create a rubbery texture.

Fresh, uncooked pork belly should not have any kind of smell. It is only when it is cooked that a scent is released.

If your raw pork belly has a strong smell then it may not be safe to eat as it could have gone bad.

What Is Bacon?

Bacon is often taken from the belly of the pig, but it can also be taken from the back or another part.

Pork Belly Vs Bacon

Here are some examples of different types of bacon:

  • Streaky bacon – This is a high content of fat and comes from the belly of the pig
  • Back bacon – Back bacon is more lean and comes from the loin area
  • Slab bacon – This is a very cheap type of bacon that is taken from the side cuts of pork
  • Jowl bacon – Jowl bacon comes of the cheeks of the pig
  • Cottage bacon – This is the name of bacon that comes from the shoulder of the pig

You can also make bacon from other animals (or from meat replacement products).

It will always be specified on the packaging, such as turkey bacon, beef bacon or lamb bacon.

Pork bacon is cured meat not fresh meat. It undergoes a lengthy process to create the flavors and textures that are characteristic of bacon.

Bacon is very popular in lots of countries across the world.

In Western culture it is often eaten as part of a cooked breakfast, but can also be added to lots of different meals.

Bacon can be cooked until it is very crispy or slightly softer.

You can get bacon with lots of fat like streaky bacon, or bacon with less fat.

You can also get bacon lardons or pancetta which are often used in Italian cooking such as pasta dishes.

Bacon can be smoked or unsmoked. It has a distinctive, salty flavor.

A lot of people consider bacon to be unhealthy due to the high fat content and the chemicals used to preserve the meat (such as nitrates).

Bacon also contains a high amount of salt which can be bad for blood pressure.

What Are The Differences Between Bacon And Pork Belly?

If you are in the grocery store trying to decide whether to buy bacon or pork belly, you need to understand what the differences are.

Here are 7 main differences between bacon and pork belly.

1. The Different Origins Of Bacon And Pork Belly

All pork belly comes from the belly of the pork. This gives it a distinctive texture, a high fat content, and a rich flavor.

Not all bacon comes from pork belly.

You can get bacon that comes from the belly of the pork, but you can also get bacon that comes from the back or the leg.

You can also get bacon that is made from other animals.

It is much easier to create a meat replacement of bacon than of pork belly, so some bacon isn’t even made out of meat.

2. Processing Belly Pork And Bacon

PorkBelly Vs Bacon

Most belly pork is uncured. This means that it has not gone through a process of preservation before it is sold. Pork belly is fresh meat.

You do not tend to get uncured bacon. Bacon is dried out and often smoked before it is sold.

Salt is used to draw all of the moisture out of the meat. This takes around a week.

The meat is then hung to dry for a further 24 hours before being smoked, often with hickory wood or applewood.

Additional chemicals are often added to preserve the meat.

Pork belly has no extra salt or preservatives and is not dried out.

However, you can smoke it yourself if you want to create that lovely, smoked flavor that you get with bacon.

3. The Price Of Pork Belly And Bacon

Pound for pound, pork belly is cheaper than bacon.

This is because the process of curing bacon takes time and resources, so the meat is more expensive to recuperate the costs.

The price of the meat will depend on the quality and who is selling it.

You could get pork belly from your grocery store a lot cheaper than top quality pork belly from a local butcher.

The price of bacon can vary depending on the type of bacon.

Both belly pork and bacon are relatively cheap compared to other types of meat, but belly pork is cheaper.

4 . The Different Properties Of Pork Belly And Bacon

Pork belly and bacon have different properties, which means that they can be used in different recipes and different styles of cooking.

Because bacon has had the moisture removed and is often thinly sliced, it will become very crispy during cooking. It has a tougher texture and works well to add a crisp texture to different dishes.

Pork belly is soft and tender. It is sliced much thicker than bacon and is cooked for longer. The fat can be crisped up or left soft depending on how you like it.

The flavor is also very different. Bacon is very salty due to the curing process. Pork belly has a rich, meaty flavor.

5. Pork Belly Is Better For You Than Bacon

Pork belly has a high fat content, but it is still better for you than bacon. Bacon is very high in salt and contains chemical preservatives.

It is best to eat bacon in moderation as it is considered to be an unhealthy indulgence. Pork belly is a more natural food.

6. Pork Belly And Bacon Are Used For Different Recipes

Pork Belly Vs Bacon You Need To Know

A lot of people think that pork belly and bacon are interchangeable but this is not the case.

If a recipe calls for pork belly and you use bacon instead, even if you use streaky bacon that comes from the belly of the pig, you will not achieve the right results.

Bacon is thinner and needs to be cooked for a lesser amount of time than pork belly. It will not become soft and tender.

You wouldn’t want slow cooked bacon instead of slow cooked pork belly.

Pork belly cannot be used as a substitute for bacon – you can’t sprinkle chopped pork belly over your pizza instead of bacon, or put it in your cheeseburger.

Both bacon and pork belly are very versatile.

The salty, savory flavor of bacon will complement lots of dishes and it can be used to introduce a nice crisp texture.

Pork belly can be roasted, grilled, braised or fried and it is a good source of protein.

7. Bacon Is Easier To Cook Than Pork Belly

If you are choosing between bacon and pork belly, it may be worth considering that bacon is a lot easier to cook.

It cooks quickly and you can just pop it in a frying pan or under the grill. It is already salted so it doesn’t need seasoning.

You can cook up some bacon and put it in a sandwich, with some pasta and sauce, sprinkle it on a jacket potato, eat it as a snack, add it to a salad – there are so many quick and easy options.

Cooking pork belly can be more difficult. You need to get the timing and the temperature right to ensure that the meat is not too dry or too rubbery.

It should be soft and tender. If you want crispy fat then you need to try and achieve this without overcooking the meat.

Pork belly is not pre-salted, so you will need to add your own seasoning.

Is Pork Belly The Same As Bacon?

PorkBelly Vs Bacon

Here is a round up of the main things that make pork belly and bacon so different so you can easily tell them apart:

  • Curing – Bacon is cured and contains preservatives but pork belly is uncured and has no preservatives
  • Salting – Pork belly is unsalted and bacon is salted
  • Fat – Pork belly has a higher fat content than bacon
  • Price – Bacon is more expensive than pork belly because of the curing process
  • Recipes – Pork belly is used as the main ingredient where as bacon is used as a topping or an extra ingredient
  • Cooking time – Bacon is a lot quicker and easier to cook than pork belly
  • Origins – Pork belly always comes from the belly of the pork whereas bacon can come from different sources
  • Flavor – Bacon has a salty flavor that can work really well to contrast sweet ingredients or complement savory ones. Pork belly has a rich and meaty flavor

Recipes

Here are some recipes for pork belly and bacon to give you some inspiration in the kitchen.

Maple And Brown Sugar Bacon

5 from 1 vote

This is a simple recipe for cooking crispy bacon flavored with maple and brown sugar which can be enjoyed with pancakes, on a burger, or even as part of a dessert. 

Ingredients

  • 16 Ounces Bacon (thick sliced)

  • 4 Tablespoons Brown Sugar

  • 2 Tablespoons Maple Syrup

Directions

  • Line a large pan with foil and place an oven safe cooling rack over the top
  • Brush the cooling rack with a little vegetable oil
  • Lay the strips of bacon on the cooling rack. It’s alright if they overlap as they will shrink a little when cooking
  • Mix the maple syrup and brown sugar together in a bowl. Heat it in the microwave for about 20-30 seconds to loosen the syrup (or you can do this in a saucepan over a low heat)
  • Brush the warm syrup and sugar mixture over the bacon. You can use a pastry brush if you have one
  • Bake in the oven for about 30-35 minutes until the bacon is nice and crispy. It will turn golden brown in color. The fat will drip onto the foil tray, allowing the bacon to crisp up instead of turning soggy

Recipe Video

Sticky Chinese Pork Belly

5 from 1 vote

This is a delicious recipe that the whole family will enjoy.

Ingredients

  • 1 kg Rindless pork belly slices (chopped in half

  • 1 liter Hot chicken stock

  • 2 tablespoons Fresh ginger (peeled and minced)

  • 3 cloves Garlic (peeled and chopped)

  • 1 tablespoon Rice wine

  • 1 tablespoon Caster Sugar

  • 2 tablespoons Vegetable oi

  • 2 tablespoons Honey

  • 2 tablespoons Brown sugar

  • 3 tablespoons Dark soy sauce

  • 1 teaspoon Lemongrass paste

  • Salt and pepper - to taste

  • Red chili (finely chopped) - to taste

Directions

  • Into a cast iron casserole pot, add the pork belly slices, chicken stock, garlic, rice wine, caster sugar and 1 tablespoon of ginger
  • Bring to the boil and simmer for 2 hours
  • Remove the pork from the pot and pat it dry with kitchen paper. (You can keep the liquid to use for another recipe such as pad thai).
  • Chop the pork into bite sized pieces
  • In a small bowl mix together 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil, honey, brown sugar, soy sauce, lemongrass paste, chili, salt and pepper
  • Heat up the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in a frying pan and add the pork.
  • Cook the pork until it starts to turn golden brown
  • Add the glaze to the pork and cook for several minutes until the sauce become sticky and coats the meat
  • Serve with rice, noodles or steamed vegetables. Garnish with chopped chili and green onion

Recipe Video

Summary

Pork belly and bacon are similar but they are not interchangeable. They have different flavors and textures which makes them better suited to certain types of recipes.

It is important to understand the differences between bacon and pork belly so you know which one to use in which situation.

Pork belly is a rich, tender meat which can be used as the main ingredient. It is well suited to lots of different cuisines.

Bacon is an additional ingredient added to dishes to bring a more salty, savory flavor and introduce a crisp flavor.

Jess Smith